Itinerary Roncesvalles - Zubiri
Roncesvalles (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: Today’s stage begins with a beautiful walk through an enchanted oak grove. Walk slowly through this section because it is especially magical and beautiful. And, of course, don’t forget to learn about its history. Buen Camino!
To start off today’s stage, we head to the N-135 road. At the exit of Roncesvalles, we will find a dirt path that heads off on the right side of the shoulder.
The Camino crosses through the Sorginaritzaga forest, known as the “Oak Grove of
Witches”: a beautiful forest with beech, oak and clover trees. There is a legend surrounding this place involving witches, and the morning sun that sneaks through the branches of the trees makes it even more magical.
Following this trail, which runs just a few metres from the road on the right side, we can see the White Cross. Its location divides the municipalities of Roncesvalles and Burguete.
This enchanted journey comes to an end in the industrial parks of Ipetea. On the left we will find a path that allows us to return to the N-135 road and follow it to Aurtiz/Burguete.
Auritz/ Burguete (Km. 2,8)
Practical tips for this section: In Burguete you will find the first ATM since you left Saint Jean Pied de Port. If you did not have breakfast before leaving, in this town you will find two bars that open early, one next to the church and another just a few metres after. Buen Camino!
In Auritz/Burguete, there is no shoulder between the huge houses and the pavement. The same N-135 road runs through this town, this time with the name “Calle San Nicolás”.
Having passed the church of San Nicolás de Bari, next to the bank, we head right at a turnoff that is clearly marked. We cross a small wooden footbridge over a stream that goes down to the Urrobi River.
We continue on this path surrounded by wide meadows with livestock and small forests, with the occasional warehouse interspersed. We will have to cross several small streams using rudimentary stepping stones.
After the steep trail, we come out on a paved path from where we can already see the maroon rooftops in the next town. We continue walking to reach the town centre in the first village in the municipality of Erro, called Espinal.
Aurizberri/ Espinal (Km. 6,5)
Practical tips for this section: It’s time for the first climb of the day. In Espinal, you will find a bar and a bakery where you can rest before getting on your way. Buen camino!
At the church of San Bartolomé, we get back onto the N-135 road. We cross the village and turn right to continue along the sidewalk. In this small town we can visit the medieval stelae in the cemetery.
After the crosswalk, we turn left to take the trail that heads up to the top of Mezkiritz, 920 metres above sea level. At kilometre 8.2, next to the shoulder, we will find the carved image of the Virgin of Roncesvalles.
Crossing the N-135, a small metal gate now invites us to enter an extraordinary beech forest. The holly trees and ferns will accompany us almost the entire way to the next town.
A final paved section leads us to the road, from where we take the trail that will lead us to Bizkarreta. In this small town, there used to be a pilgrim hospital that made this location the end point of the stage back in the 12th century.
Bizkarreta/ Gerendiain (Km. 11,4)
Practical tips for this section: If you are planning on making a stop to try some of the products from the region, we recommend choosing Biskarreta. In Lintzoain, you won’t find many options, only the town’s fountain. Take this opportunity to replenish your water supply in order to tackle the 8 kilometres that separate this town from Zubiri. Buen Camino!
In Bizkarreta, we’ll find the church of San Pedro. To follow the Jacobean route, we must meet up with the trail by the village’s small store.
From there we head to our next town, Lintzoain. A two-kilometre walk separates one town from the other.
In about half an hour we will find ourselves in Lintzoain. At the top of the village is the church of San Saturnino, to visit it we’ll need to make a 150-metre detour.
We continue along the French Way, following a turnoff to the right, on a cement road with a very steep hill.
The next four kilometres will take us up to 800 metres of altitude, to the top of Erro. The first part is harder and follows a narrow gravel trail.
On the way up, we will find a rest area that has a few tree trunks that have been placed as benches. This spot pays tribute to the Japanese pilgrim Shingo Yamashita, who died in 2016.
The slope evens out and the path widens. The French Way offers us some beautiful views of the Navarrese landscape in this section.
Top of Erro (Km. 17,8)
Practical tips for this section: At the top of Erro, you will find a van that functions as a bar. If you did not pay attention to our previous advice to stock up on water, you can avoid a dehydrated walk down thanks to this traveling van. Buen camino!
Once at the top of Erro, we will cross the N-135 road once again and take the trail heading downhill to Zubiri. As we continue along, the descent will become steeper.
In the following kilometres, we make our way through several gates and we will have to cross a few sections with steps. The descent ends at the “Rabies Bridge” that crosses the Arga River.
Zubiri (Km. 21,4). End of stage
Practical tips for this stage: The entrance to Zubiri is bucolic and the river gives us the opportunity to reward our feet by placing them in the cold water of the Arga River. See you tomorrow!
Crossing the “Rabies Bridge”, we enter Zubiri and the Esteribar valley. Zubiri is a small town and, unlike other end-of-stage towns on the French Way, it does not have many places to visit other than enjoying the Arga River and the church of San Martín.
Although for most pilgrims, today’s stage now ends here due to logistical issues. The historical stage ended in Larrasoaña, five and a half kilometres away.
Pamplona will be a good place to spend the night tomorrow. Today we will have travelled 21 kilometres to Zubiri, which is a good distance for someone who is in relatively good shape. The small town of Zubiri is therefore a more logical end to today’s stage, since Pamplona is another 20 kilometres away if we follow the French Way.
Nevertheless, some pilgrims decide to continue to Larrasoaña, either because they want to follow the historical stage, they prefer not to sleep in Pamplona, or because they don’t have a lot of time. If this is your case, you will find the directions for this route here.
Lastly, note that in Zubiri, like many other towns that we will find in tomorrow’s stage, most bars and restaurants close during the 3 or 4 months in the low season.
Comments Roncesvalles - Zubiri
Today’s stage is not dangerous. Nevertheless, we’ve indicated below the places where you should pay greater attention.
And since we’ve suggested that you enjoy the food along the way, we have also proposed several culinary recommendations from the region. We hope you like them.
How to get to Roncesvalles
If you arrive to Pamplona, you can take one of the daily buses that leave from the station and go to Roncesvalles. From Monday to Thursday at 3 pm, Fridays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 4 pm.
If you arrive to another city or you want us to organise your transfer from Pamplona, you can contact us here.
If you are doing the French Way by bicycle, you can pay a supplement to take it on the bus. But if you prefer to travel more comfortably, we can take care of everything for you.
Precautions stage Roncesvalles - Zubiri
The final descent from the top of Erro to Zubiri is not recommended for people with reduced mobility or inexperienced cyclists. In these cases, we recommend continuing on the N-135 road.
In the rainy season, it is very likely that you’ll find some muddy sections. If the path is impassable due to mud, the N-135 is also a good alternative.
If you decide to take the road to Zubiri, you should be extremely careful, whether on foot or by bicycle. This road has a lot of traffic.
If you choose to do the descent on the Jacobean path, pay attention to your steps. Every year, many pilgrims must abandon the Camino de Santiago as a result of this stretch.
Sprains, twisted ankles, falls, etc., are all common. The stones are of all shapes and sizes; it is easy to slip or twist an ankle on the way down.
Food stage Roncesvalles - Zubiri
The food we recommend are the traditional dishes from the Navarre region. These include:
- Navarre-style white beans with “Piperade”
- Navarre beef
- Roncal cheese
- Mushrooms and dark ceps
- Shepherds’ Breadcrumbs (known as “migas de pastor” in Spanish)
What to do stage Roncesvalles - Zubiri
Sorginaritzaga Forest or the "Oak Grove of Witches"
The myths and legends surrounding witches and the Sorginaritzaga Forest have led this place to be known as the “Oak Grove of Witches”. According to legend, it was on this land during the 16th century that witches were able to connect with forces of nature as they celebrated numerous pagan rituals.
At that time, society believed that forests and mountains were the places that witches chose to perform exorcisms, make potions or hold coven gatherings. They were also spaces where witches could be free to practice their sexuality.
They say that 9 people were burned in Sorginaritzaga. The Plaza de Bruneguete square also witnessed the burning of several men who were accused of practicing witchcraft.
In the 16th century, the religious people of the time ordered a cross to be installed in the forest in order to purify it of the witches’ magic. As pilgrims, we will pass this cross and at its base you can read the words “Cruz Blanca” (white cross).
These myths and beliefs, which have a significant presence in this region of Spain, led to the creation of what is now known as “The Witchcraft Route”. This route goes from Sangüesa and Lumbier to the region of Améscoa.
Currently, the route is divided into four itineraries. The first crosses the Orreaga/Roncesvalles area, starting at the Sorginaritzaga Forest or the “Oak Grove of Witches”.
The Cruz Blanca (white cross) is also known as “Roldán’s Cross”. This name is due to the legend according to which the remains of Roldán (commander of Charlemagne) can be found under this cross, placed here after his defeat to the Vascones pre-Roman tribe.
We use the word legend because there is no historical evidence that accurately determines the precise place where Roldán was finally defeated. Although some historians who specialise in this era of history have completely ruled out the possibility of Roldán’s remains being located under the cross.
This cross was installed in the 16th century at the request of the religious people of that time. Its objective was to purify the Sorginaritzaga Forest, which was believed to be the land of witches.
At the end of the 18th century, the cross was severely damaged by lightning. Later on, French troops who had taken the legend to heart destroyed the White Cross completely, as a symbol that represented the defeat of their ancestors to the Basques.
The reconstruction of the White Cross was finished in 2006. The cross we can see today is a replica of the original.
The small town of Burguete is structured around the San Nicolás street. The town is made up of beautiful homes from the 18th and 19th century. It currently has a population of 244 inhabitants.
Burguete is known for being one of the favourite towns of the American writer
Ernest Hemingway. In his book “The Sun Also Rises”, he immortalised this town with phrases such as “As we came to the edge of the rise, we saw the red roofs and white houses of Burguete ahead strung out on the plain, and away off on the shoulder of the first dark mountain was the gray metal-sheathed roof of the monastery of Roncesvalles”.
The author loved Navarre and felt extremely passionate about the San Fermín festival. Although it should be noted that his favourite places were Burguete, Aribe and Yesa, since they were the best places for fishing and eating.
Today, this small town is part of the “Hemingway Route”, one of the most popular routes among tourists in Navarre.
Church of San Nicolás de Bari
The church of San Nicolás de Bari is located on the street that runs through Burguete. The exact date of its construction is unknown; however, it has undergone several restorations since the Middle Ages. We do know that the last modification to its structure was made between 1948 and 1965.
This temple consists of a nave divided into three sections with a transept and ending in a straight chevet. The ribbed vaults and corbels are the result of a restoration in the 16th century. The entire building is made of covered ashlar.
On the outside, we are drawn to its classic Baroque façade, whose restoration dates back to the 17th century. In the centre of the façade, you can see a huge rose window that contains the church’s clock.
Inside, there is a beautiful main altarpiece in a Baroque style. Different pieces made of precious metals are kept inside the church. Some of the oldest pieces include: a silver ciborium, a silver chalice and a golden chalice.
The Urrobi River is one of the Pyrenean rivers that flows through the Arce Valley from north to south. It is formed by the confluence of several ravines in the Pyrenean hillside, located between the Lindux hill and the Orzanzurieta mountain.
It’s a rainwater river and can only be navigated in rainy seasons since the water level quickly recedes. Urrobi empties into the Itoiz reservoir.
On its banks we can find sessile oaks and a variety of maple and beech trees. There are several species of wildlife that inhabit the area surrounding the river, such as the Pyrenean newt, the kingfisher bird, the white-throated dipper and the polecat.
Erro is a municipality located at 669 metres above sea level and it has a total area of 144 km2. It is in Navarre’s mountainous region in the north.
The municipality is bordered in the north by France and the Valley of Baztán; in the east by Burguete and Artzibar; in the south by Lizoáin-Arriasgoiti; and in the west by Esteribar. In 2017, it had a population of 789 inhabitants.
The origin of its name is uncertain. Some authors point out that its origin may be etymological and related to the word “erro” in the Basque language, which means “root”.
The municipality is composed of 12 population nuclei. The French Way passes through the urban areas of Aurizberri/Espinal, Bizkarreta/Gerendiain and Lintzoain.
The town of Espinal was founded in the 13th century, in the year 1269, by King Theobald II of Navarre. It is the largest town in Erro.
It is a small town that is crossed by the N-135 road. Its main attractions are the church of San Bartolomé and the medieval stelae in the cemetery. It is also known for being one of the places that the famous writer Ernest Hemingway fell in love with, who worshiped both the Navarre lands and trout fishing.
Church os San Bartolomé
The church of San Bartolomé is in the town of Espinal and was opened in 1961. The previous temple disappeared after two fires.
The building stands out with its slate gable roof, in which you can see several mosaics. Five other smaller windows open on the façade. Above them is a huge Renaissance-style cross.
On the right there is a portico and next to it stands a tower that narrows at the top. Inside, you can visit an organ from the second half of the 20th century.
Medieval Stelae of Espinal
The medieval stelae of Espinal is an open-air museum. It consists of a set of more than 25 funeral steles that can be visited in the town’s cemetery.
The stelae have the shape of a coin and follow the same pattern in terms of height, model and type of stone. The function of these stones was to identify the graves of the different families that inhabited the place at the time.
This small town in Erro has just 100 inhabitants. Historically, its existence is tied to the Camino de Santiago, since it housed a pilgrim hospital during the 12th century. However, today there is no trace of it left.
Worth seeing in this town is the church of San Pedro.
Church of San Pedro
The church of San Pedro is located in the town of Bizkarreta – Gerendiain and dates back to the 13th century. The temple, in a pro-Gothic style, suffered significant damages during the War of the Pyrenees. The numerous restorations that it has been subjected to over the years have allowed the structure of the original church to be recovered.
There is an eye-catching bell tower that has a pyramidal shape with a cross at the highest point. Inside, there are two melted bells, one dating back to the 18th century and other, much more recent, was added in 1903.
Lintzoain is a picturesque village with 41 houses and around 65 people. It constitutes the geographical centre of Erro and is also its administrative capital.
The town is divided into two villages: the bottom and the top. The bottom village consists of a bar, the pediment and the park. This is where the Camino de Santiago runs through. At the top is the church of San Saturnino and the cemetery.
Church of San Saturnino
The church of San Saturnino is located in Lintzoain and dates back to the 13th century, although it was restored in the 16th century. In a Romanesque style, the church is covered in a pinkish stone.
Inside there are two altarpieces, one from the 17th century and another from the 18th century.
The "Rabies Bridge"
The “Rabies Bridge” is located at the entrance to Zubiri and crosses the Arga River. It is a medieval bridge with two semi-circular arches and polygonal pillars over the river.
Its name comes from the belief that if animals walked around the pillars three times, they would be cured of rabies.
The Arga River stretches 145 kilometres and crosses 17 Navarrese municipalities. At the upper basin, the river is bordered by beech trees, under which a variety of other plant species grow.
It begins at the hill of Urquia, to the north of Erro, and flows into the Aragón River. Its main tributaries are, on the right-hand side, Ulzama (Villava), Juslapeña and Araquil (Olza), and Salado (Mendigorría). And on the left-hand side, Urbi (Huarte), Elorz (Pamplona) and Robo (Puente de la Reina).
As for the flora, in Zubiri we can find maples and wild cherry trees. In one of the variants in stage 3 of the French Way, which passes through Huarte, we can also find willows.
Zubiri (“town of the bridge”, in the Basque language) is the first town in the Valley of Esteribar and is its administrative capital and industrial centre. This small town located on the right side of the Arga River has just over 300 inhabitants.
The main attractions in this town include the “Rabies Bridge” and the church of San Martin, which is newly built.
Church of San Martín
The church of San Martín is in Zubiri. This church is a modern construction, as the original was used as a barracks during the Carlist War, and in 1836 it was destroyed in a conflict.
Valley of Esteribar
The Valley of Esteribar is a municipality located 619 metres above sea level with a total area of 146 km2. It is located in the historical territory of “Merindad de Sangüesa”.
The municipality extends along the Arga River, throughout the valley, which gives it a long and narrow structure. Its 14 kilometres stretch from Zubiri to Arleta. In the north, it borders the Baztán valley. In 2017, it had a population of 2,629 inhabitants.
There is a great deal of consensus as to the name being explained by the combination of the term’s “ester” and “ibar”, which in the Basque language means “valley”.
There is less agreement among scholars regarding the term “ester”. Some authors point out that it comes from the Basque word “eztarri”, which means “throat”. According to this theory, the meaning of the valley’s name would be “Valley of the Throat”.
During the Middle Ages it was known as the “Valley of the Hunters”.
This municipality is made up of 28 towns. The French Way finishes stage 2 in the first village in the valley, called Zubiri. In stage 3, it crosses: Larrasoaña, Akerreta, Irotz, Zabaldica and Arleta.